The roman army at war 100 bcad 200 oxford classica breaks the traditional mold


Published on

  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

The roman army at war 100 bcad 200 oxford classica breaks the traditional mold

  1. 1. The Roman Army at War 100 BC - AD 200 (Oxford Classical Monographs) by Adrian Keith Goldsworthy The Ins And Outs Of A Roman Army At WarGoldsworthy examines how the Roman army operated on campaign and inbattle. He compares the armys organization and strategic doctrine withthose of its chief opponents and explores in detail the reality of battle:tactics, weaponry, leadership, and, most of all, the important issue ofmorale.Personal Review: The Roman Army at War 100 BC - AD 200(Oxford Classical Monographs) by Adrian Keith Goldsworthyrom an aggressive Republic to a dominating Empire, Roman culture andinfluence spread through three continents on the backs of its armies.Military power, flexibility of command, pursuit of glory, and puremechanical determination shape the Roman world from 100 BC to 200 AD.For three centuries, the Romans expanded borders and spilt blood, fightingthe enemy and themselves. It is to this end that Adrian Keith Goldsworthy
  2. 2. attempts to show the Roman world, and more precisely the Romanmilitary, with more emphasis on individuality than is typically discussed. Hedoes so in his work, The Roman Army at War, an in depth book comprisingof organization, movement, and tactics, as well as a deeper delve into asphere of human emotion and motivation, asking why events unfolded asthey did and to what end. Emphasis is placed on the individual thoughtsand motives within a campaign, whether it is the lowest recruit or theEmperor himself. Gone are the days of archaic military history thinking interms of emotionless blocks of troops moving in straight lines, ready to laytheir lives down for the cause of Roman victory. Goldsworthy navigatesthrough a sea of frail conclusions, unconvincing explanations, andunreliable sources, many of which he cites throughout the text, dealingwith the Roman military and how they waged war, coming out the otherside into the fairly uncharted waters of how war was waged on theindividual. This is the new frontier of military history and is in dire need offurther research as stated by Goldsworthy. Blocked off in six main chapterswith several sub-topics contained within each chapter, Goldsworthyreveals a story of Roman military life which is not always cut and dry andcertainly not romanticized.Goldsworthy begins with the description of Roman military organizationcovering the evolution of the Legion due to "the changing scale of warfare"(37) from thirty maniples to ten cohorts. This was due to the need for a "farmore flexible legion" (37). He further goes on to discuss the intro duction ofsmall scale fighting armies, made up of legionary detachments orvexillations, noting the lesser need for large standing armies becauseseldom "was there ever an enemy capable of organizing an army largeenough to produce such large scale warfare" (38). Reinforcing the idea ofRoman adaptableness, Goldsworthy goes into detail on the Romanarmies ability to change where change was needed, highlighting ArriansCappadocian legions in what is today eastern Turkey, "the roman armywas an inherently flexible organization" (38). He concludes that the armies"ability to adapt to local situations" (38) was a key factor of its success.Goldsworthy follows this point up with a brief description of Romes chiefenemies, the Germans, Gauls, and Parthians, along with concisedescriptions of their customs and methods.The chapter on the Roman campaign deals with the idea of an aggressiveand offensive army as opposed to the previous stereotype of an army ofrigid defense. In fact, he even goes as far to say that a Roman army ondefense had either been taken off guard or was admitting its grim position,"the Roman army sought always to bring the conflict to a decisiveconclusion as soon as possible by seizing the initiative and dictating thecourse of the fighting" (114). The idea was to show Roman force, even ifbadly outnumbered or under supplied, in order to persuade an enemy outof fighting, "the Roman emphasis on the offensive in all forms of warfarewas another aspect of this attempt to dominate the ene mys collectivewillpower and suggested the inevitability of Roman victory" (114).Goldsworthy continues on to discuss the Roman advantage in siege
  3. 3. warfare as well as its ability to excel in low intensity skirmish and ambushcombat. He affirms many Roman commanders were able to "use forces ofheavily armed, legionary infantry as raiders to attack and completelysurprise enemies who habitually fought using the tactics of raid andambush" (114). He concludes this section dismantling the preexisting ideasof Roman-style warfares reliance on geographical settings; also itsinability to defeat the Germans and Parthians as reasons to the slowing ofexpansion in those areas. According to Goldsworthy, that would be to"deny the fundamental flexibility of the Roman army" (115).The second half of his book goes into a much more personal level of themilitary and its characters. Beginning with the generals, Goldsworthy goesstraight into his explanation of a Roman generals mobility and interactionin battle as opposed to the popular opinion of a stagnant observer.Describing the three positions of generalship during battle, front linecombat, surveying from the rear of the army, or directly behind the men, heexpresses that most Roman generals preferred to stay "close to thefighting without taking part, encouraging their men and directing theirreserves as the situation required" (168). This allowed for a flexible generalwho could plug gaps when necessary and rally troops at different points inthe line, a perfect form of command for the Roman army. As Goldsworthyemphasizes "the technical skill of the Roman general lay not in thesweeping moves of grand tactics, but in paying close attention to the detailof small unit tactics, directing his units" (169). He ends with how agenerals upbringing in Roman society and the emphasis of "courage orvirtus" (169) is the driving force of military success and shaped the Romangeneral in battle.Goldsworthys largest chapter deals with the unit in battle. He goes intoexplaining the idea that tactics, drill, and weaponry can only go so far on abattlefield. The core ingredient is the soldier himself and how he will reactto the speed and stress of warfare. Goldsworthy states, "moral, far morethan physical, factors were of most importance in determining the courseof the fighting" (244), battles in this period seem to be highly fluidconfrontations involving intervals of intense melee and then long episodesof uneasy face off where the difference between victory and defea t couldbe rather small indeed. He puts emphasis on the idea that most men in abattle "were instinctively more prone to avoiding threats to themselves thento attempting to kill the enemy" (245), also adding that "few men couldhave had any idea of the gr and tactics of the battle, or indeed what washappening anywhere outside their own patch of ground" (245). Once againhe is reiterating the concept of the Roman military as a group of individualsas opposed to a robot mob void of all emotion. He, however, finalizes thatthe Roman edge in battle was mainly due to its "discipline, fear ofpunishment, and good morale" (246), which allowed them the opportunityto hold out just longer then their enemies.The final section of Goldsworthys book deals with the individual soldier inbattle concentrating on motivation and bravery. He discusses how
  4. 4. discipline, unit cohesion, quality of leadership, opportunities to spoils ofwar, and even punishment were all essential motivators of the commonRoman soldier. Acts of bravery were significant to the Roman armybecause "in the course of battle there were many occasions when it wasimportant for one, or a few, individuals to push ahead, or cut their way intoan enemy formation, in order to achieve victory" (264). The acti ons of asingle man could rally others to go above the call of duty and sway a battlein Romes favor. Bravery is excellent for morale and was a main cause offactors, such as personal recognition by a general or possibly Emperor,which could change the outcome of a battle. Goldsworthy displays manyaccounts of individual soldiers being rewarded by the Emperor, whichencouraged striving for glory in battle, "the encouragement of boldnessthrough reward helped to motivate individuals to the displays of aggr essionneed For More 5 Star Customer Reviews and Lowest Price: The Roman Army at War 100 BC - AD 200 (Oxford Classical Monographs) by Adrian Keith Goldsworthy 5 Star Customer Reviews and Lowest Price!